WORKING FOR BARTELL, FIRST IN DETROIT, THEN IN ST. LOUIS, was one of the most exciting, challenging, dynamic experiences that you could ever imagine during that time period. With my friend Gary Bridges doing the PD chores, and myself as MD, we had just about everything at KSLQ running on a smooth and even keel. TheAir Staff was doing a fantastic job, plus, we had given the Sales Department good numbers to sell with.
I was very happy at the time and, in the two years I had been at the station, had seen the growth of not only KSLQ but of the other FM's in the Market. KADI, as well as KSHE, had been pulling good numbers...albeit with different formats than ours. KXOK, on the AM side was still in the game, but we were making a big dent in their audience. In fact, in the April-May, Spring ARB Ratings Book of 1974, OUR KSLQ WAS THE HIGHEST RATED FM STATION IN ANY MAJOR MARKET IN THE COUNTRY WITH A 9.9 SHARE !
Numbers like that will get you noticed. That, plus an excellent track record as Music Director, will add to your Professional Resume' with a couple of Gold Stars attached.
IF YOU'VE READ THIS FAR, and have read the "About JK" page, you've probably understood my lifelong love of music and my collecting it and studying it since I was very young. Through the years I learned from the best, and tried to remember any information that was available about any of the various forms of music that I liked, collected, and listened to. Therefore, armed with that knowledge, the PD's & GM's that I worked with always had enough faith in me to name me Music Director at almost every station I worked with in those days: KLID, KAAY, KSLQ (Twice. From 1974-1975 and, again, 1981-1982). At the same point in time the next logical step, if you have the talent and discipline for it, is Program Director.
One day in June of '75 I got a call from one of the local Record Promotion men saying that he had just visited with Richard Miller, owner of KADI/KXLW, St. Louis, and that Richard was interested in talking to me. Seems as though Richard was looking for a new Program Director and my name came up.
As I stated earlier, I was very happy at KSLQ, and wasn't in a hurry to leave. But, I called Richard and he asked me to have lunch with him at O'Connell's...a St. Louis Landmark eating establishment with probably some of the B-E-S-T "bar burgers" anywhere. At lunch Richard told me that he was looking for a new Program Director to take over KADI & KXLW and, initially, consult his station in Kansas City: KWKI. Through the years, Richard had a number of different PD's at KADI - which was an Album Oriented Rock station - but he wanted someone with a Top 40/Rock background that could instill solidness, and discipline, in the Staff and the Format. He also wanted to change the KXLW call letters and format.
I had subsequent meetings and dinners with Richard, his Office Manager, and his Sales Manager. They all wanted to know what I'd do if I took over KADI and, after my research & studying up on what they needed to do to firm up the station and the format, I said that this would be my objective: KSHE was to the left of KADI on the dial; KSLQ was to the right. My aim would be to position KADI's format musically RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THOSE TWO. Therefore, if the listener was moving between those other stations, I wanted to have them hear something BETTER, so that they wouldn't have time to get to the other one ! Richard and his office heads agreed, I agreed, and a deal was struck.
Let me tell you, it wasn't easy leaving my friends at KSLQ, we had formed a tight unit there, but they all wished me only the best, and I was on my way.
And, that's when one of the "GREAT RADIO WARS" of St. Louis Radio in the '70's began.
AFTER A SHORT VACATION to visit some of my old friends in Little Rock (where I actually got another offer to be PD at the station one of my friends, who was the GM , was running ! ), I took over as Program Director of KADI/KXLW on July 2, 1975.
Again, my objective was to position the music, and overall sound of the station, between KSHE & KSLQ. To that end, I pretty much pre-programmed most of what was heard on-the-air and in those days you didn't use a computer...you did it by hand ! A Herculean-task, but it had to be done.
The jocks were a good group of guys, but not really used to a "tight format" , or, how "quarter hour maintenence" was achieved. The discipline involved in getting the job done eventually sunk in, and after awhile they learned that they were putting together a very smooth running radio station that was more listenable than ever. PLUS, they were learning a whole new style (for them) of formatics that would benefit them wherever they worked in the future.
ONE OF THE THINGS I WAS HIRED FOR was to change over the call letters and format of the long-running KXLW, our AM Station. Personally, I greeted this with mixed emotions. If you've read the earlier info on me, you know that KXLW was the very first radio station I visited and appeared on, as a kid, when I was about 8 years old. In addition to that, KXLW was a station I listened to alot when I got into high school. They played Little Richard, The Penguins, Sam Cooke, The Five Satins, and all of those great R&B groups that I really was into. Throughout my lifetime KXLW had always been there. And now here I was, eliminating not only a part of St. Louis History but also a part of my own.
But then I figured that maybe that was why I was chosen. Maybe it was predestined that I would be the one to do this a quarter-of-a-century later, as the first time I appeared on KXLW was the day I had decided that I wanted to in radio. Now, after all those years, I was not just "in radio" I was the Program Director of that same station and about to give it new call letters and new life. It was as if I had come full-circle, my past linking up to my present. It was both humbling & exciting: KADI-AM was born.
WITH THE FORMAT ON THE FM BAND WORKING as I wanted it to, my next project was to put into motion the format for KADI-AM. I wanted to shake-up the AM side of the dial with an AOR sound. Previously, that had always been done on FM due to the Stereo-factor. But I figured, if we balanced it right, it would could be a real contender. To that end, I programmed it separately from the FM. It took a ton of work because, again, I pre-programmed everything on the station...but the sound was remarkable.
All of our systems were put into place by the time the Fall Rating Period (Oct.-Nov) hit. The jocks did their very best, BOTH our stations sounded right-on-the-money, and when the Ratings came in on January 5, 1976, we ranked 5th in the Market ! KADI-FM had climbed from 10th to 5th with a 5.3 share ! AND, KADI-AM was pulling a 1.8...which, for that new a sound and with new call letters, was just phenominal. To be more exact, here's how KADI and the competition stood: KSLQ, 5.9; KSHE, 5.6; KADI, 5.3. You couldn't get much closer than that, and when you added the KADI-AM, 1.8 share, our Sales Department, as well as my boss Richard Miller, was ecstatic !
Our Market Shares" were great, but our actual Ratings were FANTASTIC ! WE HAD MOVED FROM 10th IN THE ST. LOUIS MARKET TO 5th !!
RANKINGS FOR THE ST. LOUIS MARKET, FALL RATING PERIOD (0ct.-Nov) 1975...
TOP 5 STATIONS:
1. KMOX: 43.3
2. KSD: 27.7
3. KXOK: 19.8
4. KSLQ-FM: 16.6
5. KADI-FM: 13.8
IT WAS TRULY ONE OF THE BEST TIMES for Top 40/Rock/AOR/Progressive stations in St. Louis Radio History. Each stations' struggle to get listeners, ratings, and, sales, the quest to get more FM's into homes and cars, the incredible talents of ALL those involved at each and every station in the market, and the strengths of the corporations that owned the stations, made for some of the strongest battles you'd ever see. Having lived through it, and experiencing it first hand, these were "The Great Radio Wars Of The 70's" for St. Louis Radio.
NOW, WITH THE SUCCESS OF THE AOR FORMAT that I put on the AM band, I received much national publicity after the book came in, and ended up fielding calls from all of the national record labels, plus all of the Industry Tip Sheets, as well as Billboard, and Cashbox. This Cashbox article that ran January 24, 1976, is shown below. It didn't scan too well but, as you can see, we were getting some great press for our achievements.
SPECIAL NOTES: The early-to-mid '70's were a time of change for not only radio stations, but also for listeners. Having "FM" in your home or car required a separate/special tuner or receiver. The law making it manditory that am/fm be received on all units produced hadn't been put into effect yet. That, plus the fact that "digital" tuning was not yet readily available for the masses, meant that you actually had to "turn the dial" to get to the station you wanted to hear. I realize that if you are reading this and were born after 1970 this may be new information for you...but, that's how it was.
Also, as far as the format on KADI-AM, I preferred the term "AOR" rather than "Progressive" but, due to the sometimes-interchangeablility of the two, it was used in the Cashbox Ariticle.
I'VE SAID THIS at every point in my career, and it's true for anyone with a career: "You Never Do It Alone". There are people behind you helping you every step of the way. NEVER forget that. I never have, and I sincerely thank them, each and everyone, for their kindness, guidance, and, help.
[MY FRIEND, RICHARD J. MILLER, owner of KXLW, KADI-AM/FM, JOY 96FM, JUKE BOX 96, and at one time KWKI-FM in Kansas City, passed-away on December 28th, 2012. He was not only my friend, but one of the best professionals in the business and a pioneer in bringing unique sounds & talents to the St. Louis Air Waves. He is truly missed. JK]
NEXT: THE AMERICAN AIRCHEX INTERVIEW...MAY 28, 1976 !